a Meath mans view of hurling. Brilliant

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a Meath mans view of hurling. Brilliant

Postby ontheditch » Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:02 pm

"Coming from Meath, I don't know much about any sport other than football.

I've seen handball once. I've heard tell there's a game called 'rounders' and I'm even told that there's a women's version of gaelic football, where they're allowed to pick the ball off the ground and a point is worth three goals. But all I knew, until recently, about the other sport administered by the GAA was that it involves the use of weapons and that only Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork are allowed to play it. (For the information of football people, Kilkenny, apparently, is a county in Leinster).

I've never met people from Kilkenny or Tipperary because those places are very far in off the main roads, so the only hurling fans I've ever met were from Cork. (I can understand why Cork people follow hurling, because I've seen their football teams). Anyway, these people told me (without being asked) that hurling is "de fastest field game in de world (boy)" and "de most skilful sport of 'em all (like)". So I decided that I should plug this gap in my education and rented a few tapes of big matches to try and figure out how hurling works.

I was immediately surprised to find out that, unlike most field games, hurling doesn't involve the use of a ball. Look as closely as you like at any game of hurling and you'll see no ball. At first, I thought the ball must be too small and travelling at too great a speed to be visible to the naked, non-Corkonian, Kilkennian or Tipperarian eye. But I quickly realised that hurling is, in fact, a stick-breaking competition, in which the object of the game is to break your weapon, a thick ash stick, either against your opponent's stick (like the reverse of the principle of conkers) or, failing that, against his limbs, torso, head etc. While the weapon remains unbroken, it is used to weaken the opponent's resistance and thus make it easier to chase him down and improve your chances of a successful break.

The stick is called a hurley and there are three parts to it -

- the warhead, which is the heavy end of the weapon, usually reinforced with steel bands. It is used for cudgelling, bludgeoning and inflicting contusions, concussion and localised damage to the head and body of the opponent;

- the blade this is the sharpened, curved part of the device, just above the warhead area, which is effective in slicing through fleshy tissue and in routine amputation applications;

- the butt, which is the stabbing end of the apparatus, used for tenderising the opponent's rib cartilage.

The only protective equipment used is the helmet. Helmets come in a variety of styles. Many players wear knee-pads tied to the tops of their heads, some stick their heads up through the bottom of a canary-cage and one lad from Cork wears a deep-fat fryer. The headgear also comes in various colours because, apparently, no two players on any team are allowed to wear the same colour.

The game starts with two players from each side standing, fully armed, in the middle of the field. On a signal from the referee, they start to beat each other about the ankles with their sticks until the referee blows a whistle. When he blows it again, other sets of combatants lay into each other, trying to break their sticks, either overhead against their opponent's weapon in a sort of aerial fencing (known as "the clash of the ash") or on the opponent himself (the gash of the ash).

When a player succeeds in breaking his stick - a smash of the ash - a huge roar goes up from the crowd, the player waves his broken stick above his head in triumph and immediately he is thrown a replacement weapon from a store that is kept on the sideline (the stash of the ash). The crowd roars at other random occasions also, in what appears to be a side competition between the two sets of supporters, because when they roar, a man in a white coat holds up a white flag, in the manner of an umpire in football.

If the roar is really loud, he waves a green flag.

If a player manages to strike his opponent on the hand or in the stomach area, this is known as a "dirty pull" and is one of the principal skills of the game. The only form of violence not permitted is pushing an opponent in the back and referees deal mercilessly with offenders against this rule. On the other hand, crippling, mangling, maiming and disembowelling and all other forms of lash with the ash are quite in order.

The contest continues until there are no spare sticks left and the referee declares a winner, presumably based on a combination of broken stick count and number of casualties which, considering the weaponry deployed and the ferocity of the conflict is usually remarkably few.

As a result of this preliminary research, I came to a few obvious conclusions:

Kilkenny must be disarmed - by force if necessary; weapons inspectors must be given access to Cork and Tipperary and there is finally an explanation for the fact that the Romans never came to Ireland.

I discovered also that only teachers, students and policemen play the game.

This makes sense, everybody else has work to go to.

One final mystery remains: where are the Gardai when all this is going on? When will the blue lights flash on the clash of the
"irish by birth, cork by the grace of god" keepherlit '04
ontheditch
Junior C
 
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